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The Four Functions of Management: What Managers Need to Know

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While most positions and departments within a business are tasked with specific duties based on particular knowledge, expertise, or company needs, managers often have a broader and more complex set of responsibilities. More than just specialized knowledge, management requires an ability to navigate numerous procedural, structural, and interpersonal challenges in the process of guiding one's team to the completion of various goals.

Originally identified by Henri Fayol as five elements,1 there are now four commonly accepted functions of management that encompass these necessary skills: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. Below we cover what each of these functions entails, as well as how they may look in action.

Planning

One of a manager's chief roles is creating a plan for how to meet company goals and objectives. This involves not only knowing how to allocate employee resources and delegate responsibilities, but also setting realistic timelines and standards for completion. Planning requires those in management roles to continuously check in on their team's progress in order to make small adjustments when necessary, while still maintaining a clear picture of the company's larger aims and goals.

Much of one's planning function consists of working independently to determine what responsibilities must be given to which employees, setting priority levels for certain tasks, and creating timelines—however, communication also plays an important role. For example, managers deal with planning any time they meet with company leadership to discuss short and long-term goals, as well as when they communicate the specifics of a new project to their team or check in periodically to ensure individual objectives are being met on time.

Organizing

Going hand-in-hand with planning, a manager's organizational skills are essential to making sure a company or departmental unit runs smoothly. From establishing internal processes and structures to knowing which employees or teams are best suited for specific tasks, keeping everyone and everything organized throughout daily operations is one of the most important functions of management.

Organization isn't just about delegating tasks efficiently and making sure employees have what they need to accomplish them—managers also need to be able to re-organize in response to new challenges. This could come into practice in the form of slightly adjusting the timeline for a project or reallocating some tasks from one team to another, or it could mean significantly altering their team's internal structure and roles in response to company growth.

Leading

Managers must be comfortable and confident commanding their team members not only through daily tasks, but also during periods of significant change or challenges. This involves projecting a strong sense of direction and leadership when setting goals and communicating new processes, products and services, or internal policy.

Leadership can manifest itself in a number of ways, from recognizing when employees need an extra boost of reinforcement and praise to handling conflicts between team members fairly and decisively. Often managers can function as leaders even during small personal interactions by modeling supportive, encouraging, and motivational qualities.

Controlling

To ensure all the above functions are working toward the success of the company, managers must be able to consistently monitor employee performance, quality of work, and efficiency and reliability of completed projects. Control (and quality control) in management is about making sure the ultimate goals of the business are actually being adequately met, as well as knowing how to make any necessary changes when they aren't.

How to Develop Key Management Skills

While some of the above functions of management can extend logically from experience and skills developed in entry-level positions, formal training and education can provide significant advantages. For instance, pursuing a business management degree provides an opportunity to study management philosophies and best practices in order to better prepare one for management jobs following graduation.

For those currently working in entry-level positions, seeking out a mentor at work and keeping an eye out for professional development seminars can be a great way to build the skills needed for management roles. Many people also choose to return to school part-time to complete an MBA in order to help them advance into a business management career.

Ready to take the next step? Learn more about online business degrees at AIU.

1 Wikipedia, "Fayolism," on the Internet at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fayolism#Fayol.27s_Elements_of_Management (visited on 1/13/16).

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